Lately its been a whirlwind madness. Holidays are like that. Recovering from moving is like that. Having to cook-every-meal-from-scratch-three-times-a-day-to-not-get-sick is like that.

But I am surviving.

Nukadoko - starting the process of making Japanese rice bran pickels, nukazuke

My new job in my lovely new (old) little town is really great. I am finally really getting to know many of the young adults on my case load, many of whom are homeless, from foster care, low income, etc. I adore them. They are so brave and smart, and wounded and confused, and brilliant and amazing and have such tenacity in the face of a world that has betrayed them on nearly every level. I love seeing their eyes light up when I tell them how proud I am of them, and I love watching them walk away a little taller.

I was so looking forward to the holidays this year, which is a rare thing for me. They were both wonderful and horrible. More on that later. A lot of lessons learned, and I have much more empathy for those of us in the gluten free community who bemoan the approach of holidays with a sense of hopeless impending doom.

Sukiyaki for Christmas dinner

My partner has been a paragon of sweetness and support, as always. She has deeply embraced the lifestyle of cooking everything at home and being hyper vigilant of a poison strewn world. Her advocacy for my health and safety is part of what made the holidays so wonderful, and triggered such awful behavior from others.

We have been trying to trade off who does cooking and who does cleaning each night. Its mostly worked, and its been great. Some of the best benefits are that I have had some nights off from cooking, our house is cleaner, and most of all that she has developed even more confidence in her cooking. She has really branched out – trying many new recipes and expanding her skills.

Gluten free felafel with fresh salsaOne of my favorite recipes she makes is felafel. Her fried felafel are phenomenal, and tonight she experimented with just lightly patting them with oil and baking them. They still turned out wonderfully crispy and were much lighter. She also made a fresh salsa of mango, red onion, tomato, cucumber, yellow bell pepper, lime juice and orange juice. She just made it up out of her head! It was delicious.

Chawan mushi and japanese style miso marinated fish - gluten free of courseLast night I made miso yaki fish and chawan mushi. Miso yaki is firm boneless white fish marinated in miso, mirin, sake, and sugar for 1-3 days and then broiled. The miso makes the fish very firm and savory. The broiling gives it a lovely caramelized flavor. Chawan mushi is translated as egg custard, but it is often considered a soup course by the Japanese. The ratio is 1:3 beaten egg and dashi (mushroom or kelp stock). When steamed it creates lovely soft delicate pillowy savory slightly sweet and salty goodness. Better yet, hidden with in this divine substance hides little treasures to uncover, like a few slices of shiitake and shrimp, and topped with a few splashes of bright green, like finely sliced rounds of green onion.

Upside-down Pie with gluten free crust

I have also learned a very very dangerous skill. I have learned to make pie. My raspberry and strawberry rhubarb pies are my favorite. I no longer bother with the bottom crust – I make upside down pie. I fill a square casserole dish with the pie filling and then put on the top crust. All the crusty flaky pleasure of a upper crust pie with half the fat and carbs. Of course, eating it more than twice as often eliminates that advantage!

What has been helping me keep track of all this meal planning is a lovely app I have discovered called Mealboard. I did a lot of searching and tried (and bought) quite a few apps, but this one is by far the winner. I love the integration of recipes and shopping lists, as well as being able to visually see and easily rearrange which meals are on which days. (I am not getting any benefit by recommending them, I just really like this app)

Pounding gluten free mochi by hand, made from scratch from whole glutinous riceOther meals of note: we made mochi from scratch and hand pounded it on new years eve, we had ozoni (mochi soup) on new years day, and we made a huge sukiyaki fest for christmas eve for the combined families. I also have made my own nukadoko rice bran pickling bed, nicknamed my rice bran monster, for making my own nukazuke (rice bran pickles) by burying vegetables in it for days. I love my rice bran monster.

I don’t believe in new years resolutions – not that I don’t believe in resolutions, but I don’t believe in only doing them at new years. My resolution today is to make more of an effort to post more often and to talk about living, not wait til I have recipes. My favorite thing about writing about all this is that it helps me maintain hope in the struggle. And hopefully inspires in hope in anybody who reads it.

Akemashite omedo to gozaimasu!! Happy New Year!